To apply for a bachelor’s program at a German university, a German student would normally just need a Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (HZB). The HZB acts as confirmation that a student is prepared for university-level courses. As an international student, you will not be applying with an HZB and will therefore need to have your education certificate recognized by German academic authorities. Upon having a certificate approved, students will receive a Statement of Comparability for Foreign Higher Education Qualifications, stating that the foreign qualification is comparable with the German system.
For students who do not receive such a statement, they may need to partake in additional courses in Germany prior to their higher education degree program in order to receive the Statement of Comparability. So how do you know if you are entitled to a Statement of Comparability? The Anabin database. The following article will provide a step-by-step guide (with screenshots!) on how to check if your academic qualification is recognized on the Anabin database. If you are only beginning your bachelor’s degree search and are not sure what study program is your best fit yet, our StudyFinder is a great way to filter bachelor’s, fit exactly to your study interests.
What is Anabin?
In Germany, there is an organization that compares existing qualifications to those closest to the German degree equivalent. This is an official, federally mandated process that is unavoidable for all international students hoping to study in Germany. It is important to note that professional recognition is not the same as academic recognition. This means that while a student may have several professional certificates, only academic certificates and qualifications are taken into account.
The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) is the organization that performs this process in higher education. The Anabin is a database (run by the ZAB) of qualifications from around the globe. As a student, the Anabin database is a very useful tool to confirm whether academic qualifications from your home country meet the academic standards in accordance with the German higher education system. The offices authorized to confirm foreign academic certificates (elaborated below) are located in all major German cities. A full list can be found on the Anabin website.
How to use the Anabin database (“Anabin Datenbanksuche”)?
In most cases, universities will use the Anabin database tool to check for foreign academic qualifications. For students, this tool is vital in ensuring that academic certificates will be recognized by German institutions. The database is comprehensive and frequently updated so if your qualifications are accepted, it is very likely that you will find it on the site. Because the database is only accessible in German, we have created this easy step-by-step guide on how to use the Anabin database.
Search for your academic qualification: 3 easy steps
Because many institutions in the Anabin base may only have certain study programs which are recognized, it is important to also check the qualification of your academic title specifically to ensure if you are entitled to a Statement of Comparability.
Select a country
Under the Schulabschlüsse mit Hochschulzugang section, you may click the Suchen nach Schulabschlüssen (search by academic certificate) tab. Under Bitte wählen Sie ein Land (please select a country), you can select the country in which you completed your academic program. In the example above, Peru has been chosen as the country location.
Select type of degree
Next, you should select the Schulabschlüssen (type of degree). Below the country drop-down selection, you should now see different education completion certificate titles. Find the one that applies to your qualification and select this option.
See if it's accepted or not
After selecting your qualification, you should see a pop-up box similar to the one above. In the left hand column “XXX-BV01” you should scroll down and look for the certificate that applies to you as there will be different factors applied. On the right hand column, “Weitere Bedingungen”, will be listed (in German) the stipulations in which that certification is accepted (if recognized) by the German Academic System. If this box is empty, as in the example of Peru above, this means that the respective qualification is not equivalent to the German system.
*Entspricht Fachschule does not compare to a German qualification.
Anabin result meanings (H+, H-, H+/- etc.)
Once you are able to find your study program using one or more of the methods aforementioned, you must now analyze your results. This is important to know whether your foreign qualification will be recognized by the German academic system. Below you will find the results for the institution and academic qualification search. Be sure to always search using both features in order to ensure that you receive the most accurate results for your qualification.
- H+ means the institution is a German-recognized institution.
- H- means the institution is NOT recognized by the German system and neither are any qualifications you may have from that institution.
- H+/- means some courses/programs may be recognized while others may not be. The next section will instruct you on what to do should you see this symbol.
Academic qualification results
- Direct: You may start your degree right away.
- Indirect: Before beginning your degree, you must take a Studienkolleg course and pass the Feststellungsprüfung assessment, a test administered at the end of the Studienkolleg course.
- General: You may study any subject.
- Subject-specific: You may only study subjects in a specific field. The field is determined by the subject that you have taken or passed the relevant exams back in your home institution. These are then divided into 5 categories:
- Humanities and languages (G and S, may be combined as G/S).
- Social and economic sciences (W).
- Technical and scientific subjects (T).
- Biology or related subjects (M).
The assessment "Direkter Zugang" (direct access) means that with the listed certificate you can apply directly for a bachelor’s study program (providing the requirements in the right hand “Bedingungen” column are also satisfied). "Feststellungsprüfung/Studienkolleg" means that you have to attend a Studienkolleg (university preparatory course) first. If this applies to you, be sure to consult our Studienkolleg guide for further information (soon to be published).
Further ReadingStudienkolleg Preparatory Course: The International Student’s Guide
Always consult the International Office of the institution where you are applying whether or not you meet the education requirements, as the educational institution makes the final decision regarding your application.
Bachelor’s transfer students
International students who have already begun their bachelor’s studies abroad, only need to check to see if their academic institution is recognized by the German higher education system. Transfer students who are in this situation, need simply follow the steps below to see if their institution is in the Anabin database. Please note that transferring can be a tricky process and that even once an institution is recognized, there are more steps to take. Because the process differs depending on the university, it is advised that students contact the university directly for the following steps.
Search for your academic institution: 3 easy steps
The Anabin database allows students to search for both their academic institution as well as their specific degree type. This first section will guide you through the steps in how you can search for your academic institution from your home country. However, make sure to also check your degree program type in the following section as Anabin sometimes does not acknowledge all degree programs from an institution. Check out our steps below to search for your home study institution:
Selec the country of your institution
Under the Institutionen section, click on the Suchen (search) tab. Under Alle Länder (all countries), you can select the country in which your academic institution is located.
Narrow down your results
After selecting your country, the name of the country you selected should be displayed on the right hand side. Now, you can narrow down your results by selecting the Ort (city/town) drop-down menu. In the example above, Peru has been chosen as the country location.
Check the results
After selecting a city in the Ort drop-down menu, the search results should narrow down to only reflect institutions in the respective location. In the example above, Lima was selected as the city location. At the bottom right hand of the search box, the total number of institutions listed in the Anabin under that city location is displayed. In the search results section, there should be a column with the Status of the institution according to Anabin. Once you locate your institution, you can check the status section to see the recognition in Anabin.
- H+ means the institution is a German-recognized institution.
- H+/- means some courses/programs may be recognized while others may not be.*
- H- means the foreign qualification is NOT equivalent to the German system.
What if my university is not listed in Anabin?
If you are unable to find your foreign qualification or institution on the Anabin database, do not worry! There are a few reasons why this may be the case. Below we will outline some potential reasons your program is not found on the database. Make sure you follow-up on each reason and see which one may apply in your case.
Incorrect use of search
What can often occur is that students misuse the search functions. This is a common error as the database is only available in German and mistakes can be made when using a platform in a foreign language. Should this occur, start the process over, carefully following each one of the steps illustrated above. If you are convinced that your institution or qualification should be recognized but is not listed, consult the university you are applying to directly as they make the final decision on which certificates are accepted.
Database is outdated
While there may be alternative databases to determine whether your foreign qualification is recognized, the Anabin database is the most up-to-date one. Because this is the official database which is run by the German Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB), it is recommended that you always use Anabin to determine if your qualification is recognized. If you recently received notice that your certificate should be recognized and you believe that the Anabin database is outdated, please contact the university you are applying to for confirmation.
Foreign qualification is insufficient
There are alternative options to ensure that you can eventually begin a bachelor’s study program. Students whose foreign academic certificate is not recognized as an entrance qualification can take foundation courses in Germany in order to prepare them for the German higher education system. This transitory education is referred to as Studienkolleg. Studienkollegs are intended for students whose German language skills are not yet up to studying standards or if their foreign qualification did not transfer to an equivalent German academic certification.
Studienkollegs are schools that are designed for international students in order to provide them with integration into the German academic culture and system. There are two different schools of Studienkolleg: University and Applied Sciences. Depending on the education topic, students will be placed in a respective Studienkolleg. Upon completing these courses, students take an education entrance exam. Please consult the “International Student’s Guide to Studienkolleg” on our site for more detailed information (soon to be published).
Another way students may gauge if they are prepared for a German study program is to take a Test for Foreign Students (TestAS) at an international test center. This test can be a great way for students to decide whether or not they are prepared for a study program and may also improve their chances of being admitted into a German higher education institution.